White House Denies Asking Allies to Avoid Arming Syrian Rebels

White House official denies Obama administration leaned on Saudi Arabia to not arm Syrian Rebels

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The White House denies asking Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern allies to opt against providing weaponry to Syria's opposition forces.

A source recently told DOTMIL U.S. officials had leaned on leaders in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, requesting they avoid arming the various opposition groups that for months have been fighting Syrian President Bashir al-Assad's military.

But one White House official responded cryptically to the charges, saying Washington cannot simply boss around its sovereign allies.

"We've publicly and privately expressed our concerns about further militarizing the situation [in Syria]," says the official. "That said, sovereign nations make decisions based on their own interests. We can't tell them what to do."

[See images of the violence in Syria.]

The United States has resisted getting directly involved in civil strife in Syria that the United Nations says has claimed over 9,000 lives.

U.S. officials claim they remain unsure just who makes up the Syrian opposition, saying hundreds of different groups--including al Qaeda--have been clashing with Assad's troops. While Washington has provided Syrian forces communications gear and humanitarian aid, they say arming them would make a bad situation much worse.

Still, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a House committee last week they are examining "a range of additional measures that may be necessary to protect the Syrian people." And Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the same panel the military would be ready to help in Syria if ordered to do by President Obama.

Syrian opposition officials have slammed the administration for its public stance against even providing arms to rebel fighters, saying those remarks only embolden Assad and his military.

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